Pieces of a Dream Announces Collaboration with 12-year-old Prodigy Justin Schultz

Contemporary Jazz/R&B legends Pieces Of A Dream, Announce their mentorship and collaboration with 12-year old piano prodigy, Justin-Lee Schultz

South African-born pianist Justin-Lee Schultz will perform and record with co-founders of Pieces Of A Dream, James Lloyd and Curtis Harmon, as they pass on lessons learned from the great Grover Washington Jr.

The groundbreaking contemporary jazz/R&B band Pieces of a Dream has enjoyed a storied career lasting more than four decades. Despite their worldwide success and countless accolades, they’ve never for a second forgotten the jazz icon who helped propel them to stardom. The late, great saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. took the Philadelphia-born band under his wing when the founding members were still just teenagers, offering vital mentorship in both music and life.

Now the group’s co-founders, James Lloyd and Curtis Harmon, are proud to pay that generosity forward. Pieces of a Dream is proud to announce their association with the young pianist Justin-Lee Schultz, who at just 12 years of age showcases not only a remarkable virtuosity but a profound artistic maturity. In the coming years Lloyd and Harmon plan to perform and record with Schultz, both under the auspices of Pieces of a Dream and in Schultz’s own burgeoning career, providing the same crucial guidance and mentorship that Washington offered in the early stages of their own musical journey.

“Grover taught us a lot, not just about music but about the personal side of the industry,” says Lloyd, who was just 14 when he first caught the ear of the revered saxophonist. “His mentorship was a huge part of how we came to be here and why we’re still here. I want to perpetuate that for Justin, help and guide him the way that Grover did for us. It just feels like a natural evolution.”

“He reminds me of us when we were his age,” adds Harmon. “Grover took us under his wing and catapulted our careers into a totally different level. I feel that because this young man is such a great talent, it gives us the opportunity to do the same for somebody else. If we can possibly help change the life of someone who is already going in a positive direction, then I’m all for it.”

Justin-Lee Schultz was born in 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa, and began playing keyboards in 2012, when he was 5. Intimately familiar with the obstacles faced by a professional musician, Schultz’s guitarist father Julius hoped his children would choose a different path. It was soon apparent, however, that both were gifted; his daughter Jamie Leigh took to the drums, while Justin quickly evidenced a talent well beyond his years and experience.

“I know the music industry, so I was crossing my fingers hoping that they wouldn’t play,” Julius says. “But within the first six months that he played the piano, Justin was playing jazz standards on a third-year university level. I would give him stuff that I thought was discouraging to play, like John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps,’ which is known as one of the most difficult jazz standards. But he sat down and started playing the melody – and then he started playing John Coltrane’s solo. That’s when I knew that he was a monster.”

Hoping to find better opportunities for his children, Schultz moved the family to Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2015. Through social media, Justin and Jamie Leigh began to catch the world’s attention, resulting in appearances on Harry Connick Jr.’s television show as the talent showcase Little Big Shots. It was through the Flautist Alex Zonjic that James Lloyd was introduced to Justin’s prodigious talents, and beyond, recognizing his virtuosity felt an instant connection. 

“Justin’s impressive for his age, but he’s not going to be playing with Pieces of a Dream because of that,” Lloyd says. “The biggest requirement for anybody getting on stage with Pieces, even more than their talent is their heart, their personality and their vibe. Justin has so much sheer joy for playing. He’s definitely a bit of an old soul, and I immediately just adopted him as my nephew.”

As important as sharing Justin’s talents with the world is to Lloyd and Harmon, it’s just as vital that he enjoy his childhood – that playing music remains a source of fun and joy. “We definitely enjoyed our career when Grover took us on,” Harmon says. “Justin has the seriousness about his craft, he has the drive to do what he wants to do, and he has more than enough talent to play with us. He definitely has to do the work, but we also want him to have fun with us, on and off the stage.”

Schultz will join Pieces of a Dream during select dates on the band’s 2020 world tour, and all involved hope to take the relationship far beyond those performances. Both Lloyd and Harmon look forward to helping Justin in the recording studio as he embarks on what promises to be a stunning career in music. 

“I think he has a gift from God,” Lloyd says. “Justin’s talent is a blessing. He was meant to be here to inspire people and spread joy, and we were meant to meet up with him at this time so that our paths could join. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that we were suddenly learning how to write songs. At this point we now have a chance to bring that full circle and perpetuate it into the future.”

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